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Waukegan, Illinois

Waukegan city north of Chicago had a significant Lithuanian area centered around the St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church. In 1896 this parish was established as joint Polish-Lithuanian, however, Poles were detached as the numbers of Lithuanians increased by 1903. The parish became the center of life in what was a Lithuanian district; for instance, when Lithuanian would be buried, church bells would ring for each year he lived. The current building dates to 1938 (the previous one burned down in 1933). After the consolidation of parishes in 1991 and 2009, the church has been closed, despite (or perhaps because of) the Lithuanian parish having significant funds while the other local communities lacked them. It is now used for charity giveaways and is stuffed with charity goods.

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church in Waukegan

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church in Waukegan

The interior of St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church of Waukegan today

The interior of St. Bartholomew Lithuanian church of Waukegan today

Next to the church, there is a red-brick St. Bartholomew Lithuanian school building where generations of Lithuanians used to receive all their education at. The school has been closed before the church but the cornerstone still remains, with inscription (in Lithuanian) "Šv. Baltramiejaus mokykla A.D. 1912". That building is also used for charity purposes.

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian school

St. Bartholomew Lithuanian school

There is another Lithuanian inscription in the once-Lithuanian part of Waukegan that reads "Petroshius Memorial Funeral Home". As the inscription was made permanent in bricks, even though the owners and the name of the funeral home have changed, the inscriptions still remain.

Petroshus Funeral Home sign

Petroshus Funeral Home sign

The Roman Catholic church has closed all the consolidated churches and instead bought a larger Lutheran church, where people from all the closed churches were expected to go to. Catholic details have been brought into that Lutheran church from all the closed churches and stained-glass windows were moved-in from the Lithuanian church at the beginning of the 21st century, thus Lithuanian inscriptions being still visible in the new church that is known as the Holy Family church. That said, stained-glass windows were too many and too large for the new church, therefore many haven't been installed or the Lithuanian inscriptions of donator's names cut off (but they are all listed on a plaque near the entrance).

Lithuanian stained-glass windows at the Holy Family church in Waukegan

Lithuanian stained-glass windows at the Holy Family church in Waukegan

Lithuanians were among the largest communities of the pre-WW1 and interwar industrial Waukegan (together with Finns and Slovenes). Unlike other communities, they were not divided among religious and non-religious. However, as the industries in Waukegan closed the town effectively became a suburb of Chicago and is currently inhabited mostly by Latin Americans.

In the Lithuanian area, there also was a Lithuanian Hall (constructed 1929, 901 S Lincoln Ave) that had been once used for Lithuanian events and meetings of three Lithuanian organizations. Since ~1985 it serves Hispanic immigrants and is known as "La Hacienda Del Norte". There are no signs proving its Lithuanian history, as the "Lithuanian hall" sign is covered by the "Hacienda del Norte" sign.

Former Lithuanian club (now Hancienda del Norte)

Former Lithuanian Hall (now Hancienda del Norte)

The map

All the Lithuanian locations, described in this article, are marked on this interactive map, made by the "Destination Lithuanian America" expedition (click the link):

Interactive map of Illinois Lithuanian sites

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  1. I remember buying smoke fish dinners here during lent.

  2. I remember as a small boy going with my Mother to the Hall for social events.


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